The Sistema

To understand the Russian interference in the 2016 election, it is essential to understand Vladimir Putin. And to understand Putin, you need to understand his KGB past, his rise to power, his fight for control of Russia, and the system–The Sistema–he created.

The collapse of the Soviet Union set off a mad violent scramble to take control over its vast state-held industrial sector. Organized crime flourished and The Oligarchs were born: a new class of noveau-riche businessmen capturing all the wealth. They move their money abroad and are a force unto themselves. Until KGB drives its comeback with Vladmir Putin behind the wheel .

In this episode of The Asset, host Max Bergmann, the director of The Moscow Project, an initiative of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, shows how Putin goes from political unknown to president in a matter of months, setting his sights on taking control. One of Putin’s first priorities: Bring the oligarchs to heel and put them under state control.

As Putin’s power consolidates and strengthens over the ensuing two decades, an informal system or Sistematook root. This system is also staggeringly corrupt and makes Putin shockingly wealthy. A key requirement of operating in Putin’s Sistema is you have to be corrupt. That means that anyone and everyone in The Sistema is also compromised. The oligarchs become tools of Putin and the Kremlin. As Russian oligarchs went out into the world and spread their money around, bought property, made investments, built connections and developed relationships; they were also developing relationships and connections that could be seized and cultivated by Putin’s Kremlin. This would soon include a relationship being cultivated with an organization based in a tower on 5th Avenue in Manhattan.


The Asset tells the full story of Trump and Russia. Each week, we will examine the colorful characters and dirty deals that populate the story of how Russia helped the son of a shady real estate mogul became President of the United States.


Left Photo: Getty Images/Jamie Squire. Right Photo: Getty Images/Mikhail Svetlov.